It’s time to go back to Patagonia, as I hadn’t discovered how to post downsized photos when we visited Torres del Paine National Park. This was an optional excursion on the boat, but I simply had to pay some dosh to see it, for when I was younger I’d been enthralled by Galen Rowell’s photos of the Cordillera del Paine, a majestic group of mountains in the park. And, sure enough, it was everything I expected, and more. First, here’s where the park is located in Patagonia (the green area):
And a few words about the park from Wikipedia:
Torres del Paine National Park (Spanish: Parque Nacional Torres del Paine) is a national park encompassing mountains, glaciers, lakes, and rivers in southern Chilean Patagonia. The Cordillera del Paine is the centerpiece of the park. It lies in a transition area between the Magellanic subpolar forests and the Patagonian Steppes. The park is located 112 km (70 mi) north of Puerto Natales and 312 km (194 mi) north of Punta Arenas. The park borders Bernardo O’Higgins National Park to the west and the Los Glaciares National Park to the north in Argentine territory. Paine means “blue” in the native Tehuelche (Aonikenk) language and is pronounced PIE-nay.
Torres del Paine National Park is part of the Sistema Nacional de Áreas Silvestres Protegidas del Estado de Chile (National System of Protected Forested Areas of Chile). In 2013, it measured approximately 181,414 hectares. It is one of the largest and most visited parks in Chile. The park averages around 252,000 visitors a year, of which 54% are foreign tourists, who come from many countries all over the world. It is also part of the End of the World Route, a tourist scenic route.
. . . The Torres del Paine are the distinctive three granite peaks of the Paine mountain range or Paine Massif. From left to right they are known as Torres d’Agostini, Torres Central and Torres Monzino. They extend up to 2,500 metres (8,200 ft) above sea level, and are joined by the Cuernos del Paine. The area also boasts valleys, rivers such as the Paine, lakes, and glaciers. The well-known lakes include Grey, Pehoé, Nordenskiöld, and Sarmiento. The glaciers, including Grey, Pingo and Tyndall, belong to the Southern Patagonia Ice Field.
We took a bus from Puerto Natales, which took about two hours each way given the condition of the roads (dirt). One of the things I wanted to see in the park was an Andean condor (Vultur gryphus), which I thought was the largest bird in the world by wingspan. It turns out they’re not, but they still hold a record:
The Andean condor is the largest flying bird in the world by combined measurement of weight and wingspan. It has a maximum wingspan of 3.3 m (10 ft 10 in) exceeded only by the wingspans of four seabirds and water birds—the roughly 3.5 m (11 ft 6 in) maximum of the wandering albatross, southern royal albatross, great white pelican and Dalmatian pelican.
Now I don’t know what index they use to combine weight and wingspan, but I still wanted it on my life list, and they’re not that easy to see. But as soon as we made our first stop, at a viewpoint, a single one was gliding above. It was hard to photograph, being far away and soaring quickly, so here’s the best I can do, but it’s still proof. (We saw no others that day.)
And here’s a better view from Wikipedia:
But of course the centerpiece was the Cordillera del Paine—about as scenic as mountains get. They change their appearance with every shift in cloud or light, and rise up above the park in a mesmerizing way. But only photos can show that, so here are some. First, a distant view of the mountains (they are in the Andes):
There’s a glacial-fed river debouching from the mountain:
A nearby waterfall:
Some vegetation (perhaps readers will recognize it):
Reader Paul, one of the denizens here who happened to be on our trip, photographing the local flowers (at least I think they’re local):
On the way back to the ship, we saw many guanacos, whose name (Lama guanicoe) tells you they’re related to llamas. The species is in the family Camelidae, and the beasts are lovely and graceful. It was hard to photograph them as they’re shy (they were hunted), run fast (and can leap a six-foot fence with ease), and we were on a moving bus. So here’s the best I can do: a running guanaco, with me panning the camera to follow it. (Paul also saw a cougar, but we have no pictures.)
Here’s a photo of one from Wikipedia. Aren’t they lovely?
Oy, do I miss Patagonia and Antarctica: